By The Rev. Kathie Galicia
Originally published in Instrument of Thy Peace Magazine by St. Francis Episcopal Church, July 2019
When I was quite young, 12 or 13 years old, one of my classmates was the daughter of a woman who had survived Auschwitz. Her mother wrote a book about her experiences; around this time I also read The Diary of Anne Frank. In high school, I read books by Elie Wiesel, Corrie Ten Boom and others who spoke of their experiences during the Holocaust. One of the things that always bothered me about that period of world history is that so many people who thought of themselves as Christians simply ignored what was going on around them. Even clergy and other church leaders became complicit by looking the other way or, in some cases, aiding the Nazis in their quest to exterminate those who were deemed “less than” the ideal.
Unless you’ve been living in complete isolation from television, radio, or social media, you must be aware of the tremendous outcry there has been in the past week about the conditions in which migrant children are being housed. Reports by lawyers who represent migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. have opened our eyes to the horrendous conditions many children have been subjected to. According to a report on NPR, one attorney who visit the detention center in Clint, Texas, said, “Never before in my life have I witnessed, heard of, or smelled such degradation and inhumane treatment of children in federal immigration custody.”
When taken to task by the media, attorneys, and health care professionals, many of these detention centers have moved children temporarily to other shelters, or made temporary improvements to minimize the level of neglect and mismanagement that are taking place. Many of these detention centers are privately owned and receive more than $700 per child per day to house them. There is not a lot of incentive to reduce the centers’ population when they are making that kind of money off of innocent children.
The fact that in these United States in the year 2019, migrant children are sleeping on concrete floors with only an aluminum “emergency” blanket, denied basic hygiene such as access to soap, water, a toothbrush, and clean clothes is almost beyond our comprehension. Children as young as 7 or 8 are trying to care for toddlers, being asked to change diapers and provide comfort even as they are denied any basic comforts themselves. Children are surviving on oatmeal, soup, a cookie, and a pouch of Kool-Aid; many are ill with flu and most are infested with lice.
I don’t spend a lot of time on social media, but what I have read there is almost worse than the reports of this cruelty. Because what I have read cuts me to the heart and holds me accountable for the conditions these innocent children are living in. Someone posted on Facebook recently: “If you’ve ever wondered what you’d do during slavery, the Holocaust, or the civil rights movement, you’re doing it right now.”
What is happening in our nation today is outrageous and unacceptable, but at the same time it is a wake-up call to all of us who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ. When we recite the Baptismal Covenant, the oath we or our godparents took on our behalf when we were baptized, we have promised God that, with God’s help:
We will persevere in resisting evil, and whenever we fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord. We will proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.
We will seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves.
We will strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.
I don’t want my grandchild to ask the question I asked about those who stood by and did nothing when confronted by the evil of the Holocaust. I don’t want her to say, “Why didn’t they DO something?” when she is old enough to hear the story of these migrant children.
We must make our voices heard if we are to end this evil. Pray about this, read about what’s happening, don’t look away, as painful as it is. Call and write your representatives in Congress, our Governor and the White House. This evil will only get worse if we do nothing.